Critics Consensus

Well cast and sharply directed, Fresh serves as an attention-getting calling card for writer-director Boaz Yakin as well as a gripping urban drama.



Total Count: 39


Audience Score

User Ratings: 8,027
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Movie Info

A bright young African-American boy attempts to survive life in the city by acting as an errand boy for a drug dealer in this thoughtful, sharply plotted drama. Known as Fresh, the young man must use his delivery jobs to support himself and his troubled sister, receiving nothing from his distant, alcoholic father but the occasional chess lesson. His intelligence and quiet determination serve him well, as he wins the trust of his employer and settles into an unpleasant but survivable routine. Even this small comfort disappears, however, when Fresh accidentally witnesses the killing of a classmate and becomes a potential target himself. Forced into an impossible situation, he puts his experience and strategic ability to good use, developing a tricky plan to protect his own life and defeat the killers. First-time director Boaz Yakin emphasizes restraint and realism, presenting potentially sensationalistic material with a minimum of violence and flash. Instead, attention is placed on the strong, layered performances, particularly Sean Nelson as Fresh and Samuel L. Jackson as his embittered father. While some have questioned the film's treatment of inner city life, the film was generally acclaimed, thanks to its seriousness and complexity.


News & Interviews for Fresh

Critic Reviews for Fresh

All Critics (39) | Top Critics (17) | Fresh (34) | Rotten (5)

  • Though well acted, and handsomely shot by veteran Adam Holender, Fresh sacrifices real emotion for thriller contrivances. It's a tourist's drive through inner-city hell.

    Feb 13, 2018 | Full Review…

    David Ansen

    Top Critic
  • Glibly shocking, it would like you to think it deals with the hard realities of urban life, but in fact it uses its patina of social consciousness as a come-on for the most conventional kind of violent commercial filmmaking.

    Apr 21, 2015 | Full Review…
  • Sean Nelson is a quiet revelation as the title character, a child who actively participates in what he regards as the only game in town, yet consistently demonstrates more caution and smarts than his friends or relatives.

    Apr 21, 2015 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • The script by writer-director Boaz Yakin is fresh itself, marrying the physical violence of Fresh's world with the intellectual violence of competitive chess.

    Apr 21, 2015 | Rating: 3.5/4 | Full Review…
  • [Fresh is] made with a subtle precision that suggests a Vermeer landscape of the ninth circle of hell.

    Apr 21, 2015 | Full Review…
  • This is kept alive largely through its first-rate performances, beginning with Sean Nelson's as the boy; Giancarlo Esposito is also a standout.

    Apr 21, 2015 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Fresh

  • Feb 16, 2013
    Corky: Only reason you ain't the man is you still too goddamn little, but, when you get bigger, you gonna be the man. "Risking it all, he invents new rules... to beat the odds in a deadly game of survival." Fresh is a solid, ghetto drama about a young 12 year old boy who runs drugs to support himself, but loses out on any sort of a real childhood in the process. The movie isn't perfect, with moments of shaky writing and shakier acting by some, but for the most part it's well acted and well written. It's nothing necessarily new, with a ghetto crime backdrop, but the character of Fresh is a fresh and well rounded enough character to make us feel like we're watching this type of movie for the first time.  Fresh has a lot of problems, especially considering he is only eight years old. His mothers gone and we can only assume dead. His father is an alcoholic, who he only sees in the park to play chess. His sister has left his aunts house and is a dope fiend who shacks up with whatever dealer she can. He runs drugs for local dealers to make money so that one day he can escape the ghetto, but the question is will he be able to escape the violence of the job he does in time? Sean Nelson really is brilliant as Fresh. He exudes a maturity and adulthood presence into a character that is years beyond his age. The rest of the cast is nothing too special, but they aren't too bad, for the most part, either. Samuel L. Jackson is easily the biggest name in this and he has a small, but nonetheless important role as Fresh's absent and alcoholic father. Fresh could just be considered another urban drama about the life of the street, but it does manage to be better than that. It's a movie that's well worth a look and may possibly be one of the better movies of this type out there. If you're a fan of the genre, it's definitely a can't miss film.
    Melvin W Super Reviewer
  • Jun 26, 2011
    While this movie has its scenes (the chess matches), I think a lot of early '90s independent film got by with shock value and relentlessly profanity. This film is no different. Look, I don't give a shit about cussing and all, I mean this film is about a teenaged drug runner in NYC, but my point is - shock and profanity isn't a good cover for bad dialogue, it can't cover up the fact that some parts of this film were lazily-written.
    matt s Super Reviewer
  • Jan 13, 2010
    Interesting narcotics story simply because we have the 12 year old as the main pusher (no pun) of the plot. Sam Jackson is not shouting in this one.
    John B Super Reviewer
  • Oct 29, 2009
    I LOVED how the kid played everybody like a game of Chess
    Brody M Super Reviewer

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